Two weeks ago, I finally caved and got a TikTok account. I downloaded the app and stared at a screen expecting it to just work. I wanted TikTok to let me through its doors and into the wondrous lands I’d been hearing about or seeing on other social media sites. I quickly realized that’s not how TikTok works.
After asking a few friends and younger family members, I learned that TikTok’s algorithm is STRONG. When you like something, the social media service will double over in attempts to provide you with similar content. So, if you like a few videos with a #GayTikTok hashtag (or something similar), your “For You” thread is in for an LGBTQ-themed makeover.
Knowing this, and very much wanting to see the gay side of the social media app, I liked away. One shirtless gay man here, another gay-themed joke there, and I had found my way into a very LGBTQ-friendly space. But do you want to know what I found in the end? That Gay TikTok is a complete disaster… in both the BEST and WORST ways.
Space For Gay Youth
Frankly, TikTok is on the brink of no longer being the wild west of social media platforms. With many celebrities, Niecy Nash, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Charlie Puth for instance, now having accounts, the platform is gaining enough attention that soon your grandmas and aunts will jump on too.
That said, it’s currently a teen’s hideaway. And in gay/LGBTQ context, it’s a beautiful oasis of LGTBQ visibility. Guys, I WISH there was a resource like TikTok when I was a teen. Being able to see all these gay teens openly discussing and celebrating their LGBTQ-ness is so heartwarming and meaningful. It really shows how much has changed for LGBTQ youth in the past 10 years.
But if you’re the type to love thirst traps, you will LOVE TikTok. Honestly, there is no shortage of shirtless men on this app. The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” comes to mind as I think of all the TikTokers swishing their hips while naked from the waist up. Honestly, many TikTok creators have even gotten creative in how they can be more suggestive (without their posts without getting their accounts deleted). And the comments sections? I have never seen so many thirsty comments in my life.
A Boost Of Energy
Honestly, the best part about TikTok is that it feels so energetic. While Twitter feels like a town hall where everyone’s screaming about one thing or another and Instagram feels like a portfolio to promote yourself in your best clothes, TikTok is all about being funny, being thirsty, being loud, being proud, and being vibrant. If you’re looking for a source of energy and fun, get a TikTok account and you’re bound to find content that will boost your mood.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to only gay-themed content. AND, not all gay TikTok creators only create thirst trap posts. There’s plenty of other content out there. Pet videos, comedy videos, musical videos, food videos, dance videos, advice videos, religious videos, even witchcraft videos, and more. It’s all there to enjoy. You just have to like a few of it to find more.
Thirst Traps & Teens
That said, not everything about TikTok is great. There are some bad things that come with the download as well.
First, the thirst traps and gay teens can sometimes intersect in uncomfortable circumstances. You might be swiping away and see a guy doing some suggestive dancing or flaunting his bare shirt and then click on the comments to see people saying he’s “17!” Not a fun experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I get that gay teens can be very thirsty. If I were on the app during my teens, this would make TikTok even more appealing. But as a grown man, I have to stay vigilant on Gay TikTok. For any other older gays looking to enjoy the app, you’ll also have to be mindful of this.
Also gay teens, be careful what you post online. It may be fun to get attention and thirst sent your way, but you never know who could be watching… or downloading for that matter. Eww.
Strengthening Body Issues
Much like Instagram, TikTok is a place that celebrates unhealthy body issues. All those shirtless men on the site, they usually come with a six-pack. It seems that muscular men and the stereotypical “pretty” body is what’s promoted most by users. Certainly, you could actively search out and like posts/accounts by people of differing body types, ethnicities, and backgrounds, but it’s the muscular men who reign on this app. Shocker.
And just as much as TikTok can give you a great boost of energetic fun, it can also get you addicted to it. Like with many other social media services, you can find yourself spending an unhealthy amount of time on it. One second, you’re just jumping on for a quick distraction, and then suddenly you’ve spent 30 minutes or more swiping and liking away. A few TikTok creators are so aware of this fact that they create videos to warn people to take a break, drink some water, sleep, and generally take care of themselves.
Lastly, it’s a serious concern that TikTok may be a major security risk for its Western users. In 201, the Chinese internet company ByteDance bought the app Musical.ly and relaunched it as TikTok. This skyrocketed ByteDance as the world’s current largest startup, estimated to at $78 billion, according to Vox. But due to its foreign ties, many are concerned about the potential dangers of TikTok being the most popular app for Gen Z.
Like it did when Grindr was owned by a Chinese gaming company, the U.S. government is currently investigating whether TikTok is a security risk to U.S. citizens. This began after the Guardian published an investigation that revealed TikTok is instructing its moderators to censor videos that mention topics like the Communist Party of China: Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, and the religious group Falun Gong.
Then in early October, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for a formal investigation into the app.
“These Chinese-owned apps are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Community Party,” Rubio wrote in a letter to US Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “The Chinese government’s nefarious efforts to censor information inside free societies around the world cannot be accepted and pose serious long-term challenges to the US and our allies.”
If you think this concern is loaded with xenophobia, you might be partially right. Though, there’s also some serious concern as well. Mainly, this is because a 2017 Chinese law requires Chinese companies to comply with government intelligence operations if asked. Meaning, if the Chinese government asks to get a hold of data from TikTok, like users’ account info or ownership of videos published on the app, TikTok would have to comply. With that in mind, having a TikTok does not seem as appealing as it used to.
In addition, the U.S. government is not the only one questioning the app. Earlier today, India announced that it would be banning TikTok usage.
Stop pleasing other people and run your own life 💁🏽♂️ PERIODT!
Gay TikTok: Is It Worth It?
In the end, TikTok is an interesting app. It offers a wonderful space for LGTBQ people and especially gay youths. It provides gay users a chance to thrive and celebrate themselves publicly. But, it can also come off as an energy/time-sucking vortex with a lot of stereotypical bodies getting priority and popularity. And with the international security implications going on, TikTok is a polarizing app right now. But is it worth it? That’s up for you to decide.
Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.